From driving lorries to port upgrades, interview with John Rudd

John Rudd One to One. Credit: USACE

John Rudd, a quality assurance and construction representative for the US Army Corps’ New England District, brings a refreshing enthusiasm to his responsibilities. It is well placed, given that he is working on the corps’ complex, USD350 million Boston Harbour deepening project. The project is dredging for greater depths and new options for the Port of Boston.

Public officials and stakeholders have emphasised the importance of co-operation among various government entities to carry the project to completion. One sign of that co-operation is the funding formula – the federal government providing roughly two-thirds of the cost and state and port entities the rest.

Daily activity in the busy harbour is another sign for the need of co-operation. Dredging activities must be co-ordinated with the port, the coastguard, and Boston’s Logan Airport. It makes for a complex set of parameters for a major dredging campaign. In fact, Rudd said he was initially surprised by the amount of co-ordination and effort that goes into keeping this project running on a daily basis. “It is not just keeping it going, but keeping it going efficiently and effectively,” he adds.

Joining the corps Rudd’s professional journey started when he drove lorries for his father’s construction business, and later another construction company, both in Rudd’s native Illinois. He taught himself to read blueprints and eventually became a project superintendent, estimator, and operator. Tough times in the regional construction business spurred Rudd to join the corps. “I used to work on contracts for the corps as a sub-contractor, and am I now working on the other side,” Rudd says.

His work has included heavy highway civil construction, some minor dredging at marinas, underground utility projects, revetments, and erosion control. As he adds, “having knowledge in these different aspects of construction gives me a better understanding of what it takes to make these projects come together”. Another component of his work, earth excavation, also has come in handy, he says, because the current harbour campaign “is similar, just underwater”. And it is on a grand scale. As Rudd says, the Boston project is “by far” the largest in which he has participated.

As his title indicates, Rudd works on “quality assurance for contractual compliance, safety inspections, review submittals, and whatever task is needed”. He is one of the corps’ two quality assurance and construction representatives assigned to the deepening project.

The corps’ Jenifer Thalhauser, who is managing the project, said that Rudd brings his private sector experience and professional qualities to bear on the task at hand in Boston, calling him a “huge asset to the project and our district”.

He says that “being in construction is quite exciting,” and it is satisfying to “work alongside many different people with varying backgrounds to solve problems and move forward”.
On another note, Rudd also finds it satisfying “watching and being a part of the project development and daily progress toward the finished product”, while the most frustrating aspect is the road “traffic getting to and from Boston”.

“Every construction project has its challenges, but there is a great group of people and a good team working on this project,” he says. “I think that we have done a good job at anticipating upcoming challenges and working through them to keep the project moving forward.”

He sees much more activity ahead at Boston. “Due to how large this project is, I will be here for the near-term future. There are follow up contracts and phases for this project, so I plan to be in Boston for the next five years or so. After that, I will move on to whatever the next need for the district is.”